Maximum flavour at Carluccio’s

Carluccio's in Chichester is located at the entrance to the new development of Eastgate Square.
Carluccio's in Chichester is located at the entrance to the new development of Eastgate Square.
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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Carluccio’s, Chichester

Antonio Carluccio, Italian chef, TV star, cookery book author and charmer, broke off filming to come to open his 61st Carluccio’s last week. Chichester is the latest in a chain that now stretches from London to Leeds, Kuwait and Dubai.

‘Minimum fuss, maximum flavour’ is his motto and the much-garlanded chef – he has an honorary OBE and an Italian Commendatore OMRI for services to gastronomy - is true to his word, not only in culinary terms but also in style of restaurant.

The summery feel to the large curved restaurant is due to a lightness of touch with smart lighting, tiles, blonde wood flooring and use of colours.

Either sit in the bar area on white coffee cream banquettes with bronze hanging lamps or by the on-view kitchen with chocolate brown curved banquettes, smart wood chairs and tables with deep cherry lighting. Or you can sit outside and watch the traffic go by.

The menu is one of 13 different pastas (lasagna and pappardelle with mushroom are just two); soups; buffalo mozzarella salad; antipasti, either shared or single; Parma ham; focaccia; calamari fritto; steaks; pork escalope saltimobocca; calves’ liver and onion sauce with mash; sea bass plus a specials board to choose from.

A set two-course menu is keenly priced at £9.95, but it’s mainly bread and pasta so stick to the main menu for a less monotonous choice. Starters are from around £5, meat and fish mains from £11.95 to just under £15. Staff are exceptionally well versed in the menu and, despite a 10 minute-plus wait for one to visit my table, they are charming, presentable and professional to the tips of their long black aprons.

A remarkably generous portion of excellent, sweet long-cured Parma ham kicked off the meal alongside a vast square of focaccia with olive oil. This terrific simple starter was followed by the daily handmade ravioli, billed as almost see-through.

Stuffed with ricotta, sage and spinach, it needs to go back to the drawing board. The pasta was too thick, one raviolo capturing all of the sage, leaving an unfortunate camphor taste. But the Parmesan and the buttery juices helped this dish along, as did a gutsy Sicani red.

Dessert-wise, tiramisu and ice creams feature heavily, while lemon ricotta cake, panna cottta and cheeses are also on the menu. I chose a double espresso. ‘Rich Napoli with a kick of Robusta or smoother Arabica in the Milano?’ was a choice, alongside espresso macchiato, caffè latte and bicerin, a Torino mix of espresso, chocolate and cream. My Napoli established Carluccio’s as the top place in Chichester for a coffee.

I wandered down to the deli section after the meal, full of daily baked breads, paninis, cheeses, Parma ham and other cured meats, plus olives, oils and cakes. All were enthusiastically explained by yet more charming staff, including a Latvian who knew her stuff - a true Carluccio disciple.

The ‘less is more’ principle comes through loud and clear, both in the restaurant and deli. Minimum fuss? Tick. Maximum flavour? Tick. But just roll out that ravioli dough a mite thinner for a totally winning formula. My bill came to £22.90, not including service.

Carluccio’s, Eastgate Square, Chichester PO19 1ED.

Tel: 01243 527412.

Open 8am–11pm Mon–Fri, 9am–11pm Sat and 9am–10.30pm Sun

Food: ****

Service: *****

Atmosphere: *****

Disabled access: Fine, with good spaces between centre tables for wheelchairs.

How to get there: Exit at the Witterings roundabout on the A27 from Portsmouth, go past the station and follow the main road (Market Avenue), which morphs into St Pancras. The restaurant is on the left. Park either in Market Avenue car park or behind the restaurant (accessed on New Park Road).